Black History Month is a time to celebrate the countless contributions and achievements of African Americans throughout history. From inventors and activists to artists and athletes, black Americans have made a lasting impact on our society and the world. In this article, we pay tribute to 27 African American heroes who have inspired generations with their courage, determination, and excellence. These heroes have paved the way for future generations and continue to be a source of pride and inspiration for black communities around the world. So join us as we remember these remarkable individuals and their contributions to history, culture, and society!
Harriet Tubman escaped slavery and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad, helping other enslaved people escape to freedom. She made over 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses.
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights leader who used nonviolent resistance to fight for equal rights for African Americans. He played a key role in the American Civil Rights Movement, which aimed to end racial segregation and discrimination. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.
Rosa Parks was a civil rights activist who refused to give up her seat on a bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her act of resistance inspired the African American community to boycott the city buses, which was one of the largest and most successful mass movements against racial segregation in history.
Malcolm X was a black nationalist and religious leader who advocated for the rights of African Americans. He was a strong voice for black empowerment and advocated for self-defense against violence and discrimination against African Americans. He promoted black pride and encouraged African Americans to take control of their own lives.
Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary and politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first South African president to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. He fought against the apartheid system of racial segregation and was a leader in the transition to multi-racial democracy in South Africa.
Maya Angelou was an American poet, singer, and civil rights activist. She was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement and was known for her powerful and inspiring words. She wrote several books, including "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings," which is considered a modern classic of African American literature.
Thurgood Marshall was the first African American Supreme Court Justice. He was a prominent civil rights lawyer who played a key role in the legal battle against segregation and racial discrimination. He argued several landmark cases before the Supreme Court, including the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case which declared segregation in public schools to be unconstitutional.
Barack Obama was the first African American President of the United States. He served two terms in office, from 2009 to 2017, and implemented several important reforms, including the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. During his presidency, he also worked to promote equal rights for all Americans, regardless of race, religion, or sexual orientation.
Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery and became a prominent abolitionist, author, and statesman. He was a powerful voice for the abolition of slavery and a leader in the fight for equal rights for African Americans.
Ida B. Wells was a pioneering journalist, newspaper editor, and civil rights leader. She was an early advocate for women's suffrage and was one of the first African American women to run for public office.
Booker T. Washington was an educator, author, and leader in the African American community. He was the first principal of Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college, and worked to promote education and economic advancement for African Americans.
Duke Ellington was a legendary jazz composer, pianist, and bandleader. He was one of the most important figures in the history of American music and helped to shape the sound of jazz.
Langston Hughes was a poet, playwright, and novelist who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He was known for his poems that celebrated African American culture and history.
Jack Johnson was the first African American heavyweight boxing champion in the world. He won the title in 1908 and held it until 1915, and was a trailblazer for African Americans in sports.
Bessie Smith was a blues singer who was known as the "Empress of the Blues." She was one of the most popular and influential blues singers of the early 20th century.
W. E. B. Du Bois was a sociologist, historian, and civil rights leader. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and was a leading voice for equal rights for African Americans.
Claude McKay was a Jamaican-American writer and poet who was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance. He was known for his poems that addressed social and political issues facing African Americans.
Katherine Johnson was a mathematician who made important contributions to the US space program. She calculated the trajectories for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon and was a trailblazer for African American women in STEM fields.
Paul Robeson was a singer, actor, and civil rights activist. He was one of the most famous African American cultural figures of the 20th century and was known for his powerful voice and his advocacy for equal rights for African Americans.
Jesse Owens was a track and field star who won four gold medals at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He was a trailblazer for African Americans in sports and was known for his speed and grace.
A. Philip Randolph was a labor leader and civil rights activist who was a key figure in the struggle for equal rights for African Americans. He was one of the organizers of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
Ella Fitzgerald was a jazz singer who was known as the "Queen of Jazz." She was one of the most popular and influential jazz singers of the 20th century and was known for her powerful voice and her innovative style.
Richard Wright was a writer and poet who was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement. He was known for his powerful and often controversial novels and stories that addressed the experiences of African Americans.
Related: 18 Children's Books to Keep the Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Alive & Inspire the New Generation!
Gwendolyn Brooks was a poet, writer, and teacher who was the first African American to win a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She was known for her powerful and insightful poetry that explored the experiences of African Americans, particularly those from her native Chicago.
Angela Davis is a scholar, activist, and professor who was a leading voice in the Civil Rights Movement and the feminist movement. She is known for her work on issues of race, gender, and social justice, and has been a prominent advocate for human rights and equality.
John Lewis was a civil rights leader and Congressman who was a key figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was one of the "Big Six" leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.
Ruby Bridges is a civil rights activist who, at the age of 6, became the first African American child to desegregate an all-white public school in the South. She has since become an advocate for civil rights and equality and continues to inspire and educate people about the importance of standing up for one's beliefs.
Toni Morrison was a novelist, essayist, and professor who was the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in Literature. She was known for her powerful and insightful novels that explored the experiences of African Americans, and was a leading voice in the literary world.
When is Black History Month?
Black History Month is observed in the United States during the month of February. The purpose of Black History Month is to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans to American history and culture. This observance was first established as “Negro History Week” by historian Carter G. Woodson in February 1926, and it was later expanded to a month-long celebration in 1976. Black History Month is now recognized and celebrated by many countries around the world as a way to promote cultural awareness and understanding.
Each year, Black History Month has a different theme, which focuses on specific aspects of African American history and culture. These themes are meant to provide a comprehensive and diverse perspective on the black experience. The theme of Black History Month 2023 is "Black Resistance." Black Resistance highlights the institutions and affiliations that have lobbied, litigated, legislated, protested, and achieved success.
Why is Black History Month so important?
Black History Month is important for several reasons:
Recognition and celebration of achievements: Black History Month provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of African Americans throughout history. It highlights the important role that black Americans have played in shaping the culture, society, and history of the United States and the world.
Education and awareness: Black History Month serves as a time to educate people about the experiences and perspectives of black Americans, and to increase awareness and understanding of the challenges and obstacles that they have faced and overcome.
Promoting cultural heritage: Black History Month helps to promote the cultural heritage and traditions of African Americans, and to pass these traditions down to future generations.
Fostering unity and diversity: Black History Month is an opportunity to bring people of different backgrounds and cultures together to celebrate and appreciate the diversity of our society. It promotes unity and understanding, and helps to break down cultural barriers and stereotypes.
Inspiration: Black History Month provides inspiration and motivation for individuals to continue the legacy of activism, creativity, and excellence that black Americans have established. It helps to inspire future generations to strive for equality, justice, and progress for all people.
While Black History Month is an important time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of black Americans, it is also important to continue learning and educating ourselves about black history and culture throughout the year.